The Note: Potomac Primaries


For a day, at least, Washington insiders are constituents, not just foils. And they're just the beginning of who's being targeted when the presidential race makes its way through the capital region -- from the Beltway to far beyond -- on Tuesday.

Voters in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia give Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a chance to extend his winning streak, after a weekend sweep that followed a battle to a practical tie with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., on Super Tuesday.

As Obama looks to pick up delegates and extend his appeal across disparate demographic groups, Clinton is hoping to slow Obama's growing momentum -- even while she looks down the road. As polls close back east, she campaigns in El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday -- another sign that she's all-but ceding the remainder of the February contests to build a final firewall on March 4, when Texas and Ohio weigh in.


Polls close at 7 pm ET in Virginia, and at 8 pm ET in Maryland and DC, on a bitterly cold and messy day in the mid-Atlantic region.

According to ABC's delegate scorecard, Clinton holds a 22-delegate lead coming into Tuesday's voting, when 175 additional delegates are at stake -- including seven from the "Democrats abroad" primary. But Clinton's gone cold at the wrong time, and she could wake up Wednesday staring at Obama from the other side of the standings.

Maryland, Virginia, and DC also hold Republican contests on Tuesday; Maryland apportions its delegates by congressional district, while DC and Virginia are winner-take all states, with a total of 113 convention delegates at stake.

Former governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., is coming off of a big weekend but has little margin for error given the mathematical challenges involved in his bid to upset Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The Democrats will be the big show: "Election officials were predicting a heavy turnout for the first-ever 'Potomac Primary,' and a great deal was at stake for the two Democratic candidates," John Wagner, Amy Gardner, and Nikita Stewart report in The Washington Post.

"Obama was angling to sweep the three jurisdictions. For Clinton, a stronger-than-expected showing could blunt Obama's momentum in what has turned into a protracted competition for convention delegates."

One key test for Obama will be white men, with polls showing that white men in Virginia and Maryland could be headed Obama's way, ABC polling director Gary Langer writes. "That's essential to his overall lead in these two states, since in neither of them are African-Americans predicted to have a large enough share to carry Obama themselves," he writes. "That suggests Obama could win white men on Tuesday, as he has in seven of the 23 previous states for which we have data. (Clinton's won them in 11, and they've tied in five.)"

The Chesapeake region offers Obama a snug demographic fit. Virginia, Maryland, and DC "fit the profile of states Obama has been winning," Peter Canellos and Michael Kranish write in The Boston Globe.

"A victory in Washington, D.C., with a large majority of black voters, is considered a foregone conclusion. But Virginia, where blacks account for 27 percent of the Democratic electorate and self-identified liberals are 34 percent, is also likely to be fertile ground for Obama. And Maryland, with 39 percent blacks and 32 percent liberals, should be as well."

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